Towards inclusivity and integration

Transformation of the real estate industry is a complex issue that encompasses far more than facilitating access for black professionals.

Historical skewing of the property market by ownership and geographic segregation is a very real issue the Estate Agency Affairs Summit had to confront.

Reporting on the discussions held in the commission investigating ways to create an inclusive and integrated industry, Louw Liebenberg, chief executive of PayProp, said transformation could not take place without addressing education in and about the industry.

"The feeling in the group was that transformation was more likely to be achieved by getting more people into the market than through a system of punitive enforcement, and therefore it is important to get education right," he said.

A range of recommendations was produced. Many of them focused on the role and importance of recruiting more interns while positioning the real estate profession with younger audiences as a viable and credible career option. A complaint aired often during the summit was the extremely long time it took to sell a property and receive payment once the transaction has been concluded.

Proposed solutions to this, for interns and while new businesses or agents are getting on their feet, included introducing subsidies to help them to get established.

Apart from financial or market access support, it was proposed that the internship process be better co-ordinated and streamlined with a specific focus on developing business skills. The process would be strengthened if principals were trained to provide effective mentorship to interns.

In turn, interns had to be made aware of what they could expect from the experience, while also being introduced to the different career paths in the industry and given the opportunity to specialise in a specific discipline.

This education process could also be strengthened by improving the availability of training institutions and opportunities, including bridging courses, and exploring the creation of incubators to train prospective agents.

Another issue that was reiterated at the summit was that of protecting the interests of property professionals. Concerns included the fractured nature of representative bodies, which could be addressed by the Department of Human Settlements gaining a better understanding of these dynamics and facilitating a solution.

Commission members said that improved communication — both in the industry and with consumers — would also help to foster transformation. The transition of the board to the department was seen as a positive step that created the opportunity for a single source of communication that would provide comprehensive information on all aspects of the industry.

It also created the possibility of establishing regional board chapters or offices.

The communication role should encompass consumer education, specifically for consumers who were often vulnerable to exploitation and misinformation. It was proposed that communications campaigns focus on issues ranging from tenant rights, body corporate obligations, the role of the board and the importance of dealing with registered agents.

Turning to structural issues, specifically legislation, the commission members supported the review of the laws governing the industry, saying they often had the effect of hindering new market entrants. One proposal was that the number of bodies agents were required to register with be reduced to a single application and accreditation.

Continued delays with submissions to the Deeds Office were a real sticking point that frustrated the industry, especially in terms of the entry of new members.

It was proposed that the new law should also provide sufficient protection for industry members, specifically subcategories such as letting agents, property managers and timeshare agents.

As with most small businesses, it was recognised that the government could play a more active role in facilitating market access by introducing schemes aimed at new entrants.

It was suggested that this could be achieved by releasing development opportunities in smaller chunks, reviewing the appointment of liquidation trustees to a broader section of the market and requiring internship and training as a qualification for government subsidies or support.

The overarching goal of these proposals, it was stated, was to align the industry with the mandate of the department, specifically the redressing of spatial separation and imbalances.

Improved co-ordination at local government level on the allocation of new developments was crucial to drive spatial integration, the commission said.


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